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Messe Frankfurt Middle East survey points to vibrant recovery for global exhibitions industry

30 May 2021

Dubai tops list of international travel destinations with 83% comfortable traveling to the emirate to attend exhibitions

Simon Mellor

Dubai, UAE: A survey tracking the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the international exhibitions industry has delivered an optimistic outlook for the sector.

Commissioned by Messe Frankfurt Middle East (MFME), which runs major events such as Automechanika Dubai, Intersec, and Beautyworld Middle East, the survey was carried out by GRS Explori in April 2021 and canvassed 2,132 professionals from over 110 countries.



Increasing importance

The positive news for the industry is that 75% of respondents believe exhibitions will be as or more important than they were pre-COVID, with the majority of respondents citing a lack of alternatives to the face-to-face business opportunities offered by sector-specific trade shows.

“This is clear validation of the business potential of trade exhibitions as platforms to unearth new products, services and suppliers that may otherwise slip under radars,” commented Simon Mellor, Messe Frankfurt Middle East’s CEO.

Furthermore, 66% of respondents are planning to travel by airplane for business this year, in line with on-going governmental efforts to open more international travel corridors, ease quarantine restriction and spur tourism – for both MICE and leisure. 

When asked if the respondents believed that the COVID-19 situation is either stabilised or improving – a promising 73% responded with the latter, while a further 83% insisted they are comfortable with traveling to Dubai to attend exhibitions.

“What we are seeing is a shift towards a back-to-business mind-set, with people keen to start taking part in exhibitions again,” added Mellor. “The current event safety measures we have in place, coupled with the government’s ongoing efforts to make everyone as safe as possible, has had a really positive impact on participation levels, delivery and upscaling of our traditional trade show portfolios.”


Safety sentiment lifts

The survey indicates upticks in sentiment towards personal safety compared to September last year, as well as a 10% uplift - up to 74% - in the number of businesses now sanctioning travel abroad for business.

Some 60% of those surveyed, who were largely business owners, C-suite executives, senior and middle management, said they would attend an exhibition by the end of the year. Those not planning to participate in a trade show in the coming year cited health risks related to travelling and the need to quarantine on their return home as key considerations.

“We understand the concerns related to air travel, as well as health and safety on the ground, and we are happy to report that stringent measures across airplanes and airports in Dubai, as well as exhibition venues, have helped significantly boost exhibitor and visitor confidence,” added Mellor.

When asked about the main reasons behind attending exhibitions, 53% of respondents say it is to meet existing clients, with a further 50% identifying new leads as a key driving factor when participating.


Dubai receives confidence vote

With an 83% support rating, Dubai topped a list of eight leading international trade show destinations in terms of comfort value for business executives, while 47% or respondents feel the COVID situation within the UAE had improved over the past few weeks.

“This vote of confidence in the UAE and Dubai underlines local authorities’ efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic and safeguard visitors,” said Mellor.

In March, 89% of respondents in independent research commissioned by Dubai World Trade Centre dubbed Dubai as “the safest destination in the world.”

“Over the past nine months, the UAE has successfully hosted a number of large-scale exhibitions such as GITEX Technology Week, Gulfood and Arabian Travel Market. These ‘mega events’ have been delivered to the highest possible safety standards, with attendees and stakeholders consistently reinforcing the urge to get back-to-business in a safe and controlled environment,” added Mellor.

Although confidence is increasing, the report identified a number of safety measures important to respondents, including the provision of PPE/sanitizer; behaviour regulation from event organisers; guarantees on physical/social distancing best practices; attendees being vaccinated and no new cases in the city/country of exhibition.


Survey download

Messe Frankfurt Middle East’s ‘The Effects of COVID-19’ survey can be downloaded here. The Dubai-based subsidiary of Messe Frankfurt GmbH, the world’s third largest trade fair organiser, is on course to stage 12 B2B shows throughout the region this year, including Beautyworld Middle East, the region’s largest beauty and wellbeing exhibition from October 5-7, and Automechanika Dubai from December 14-16 both at DWTC.

MFME has also backed a global campaign supporting the exhibitions and events industry, adopting the ‘This Show Is Open’ (TSIO) slogan launched by Paris based UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, and Atlanta based SISO, The Society of Independent Show Organizers.

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